South Korea and Muncie, Indiana. Approximately 6,768 miles apart.
Now, the two are as close as ever after Ball State Esports and Gen.G’s partnership was announced August 2, 2022.
In the works since the end of Ball State University’s 2022 Spring Semester, Ball State Director of Esports Dan Marino said throughout the entire Summer of 2022, he and others involved with Ball State Esports have been constantly communicating with other countries and continents. Gen.G were always a main target.
“It's no secret that South Korea is sort of the epicenter of Esports,” Marino said. “It's kind of culturally ingrained, it's a big part of so many people's lives in a way that maybe isn't in the United States.”
Along with many other honors, Gen.G was ranked sixth in Forbes’ 2020 list of the world’s most valuable Esports companies, showcasing how important this partnership is for Ball State Esports. However, perhaps the most important piece of this partnership comes from an academic standpoint.
The partnership allows Gen.G Esports student-athletes to apply for admission to the Ball State University College of Communication, Information and Media (CCIM) esports program, giving high-school aged student-athletes from Asia academic and esports competition opportunities available at Ball State. Marino said although he is excited for Ball State Esports to add Gen.G student-athletes to their varsity program, the academic pathway is the primary focus.
“I think we'll be able to kind of reap the benefits of having super talented players coming over from [South] Korea to participate on our varsity program, but more than that, I see it as sort of a first domino in a way that allows our students and students from Korea to connect in more of an academic and community way,” Marino said. “The main piece of what this is doing is establishing a pipeline so that students from South Korea can travel to the United States and earn an education here because that's obviously the first piece of what any eSports program should be about.”
Not only that, but he said this partnership should also bring diversity to Ball State’s campus, making for a more positive experience for Cardinals.
“We’ll be able to field more competitive teams, hopefully get some more recognition and compete at higher levels, but in some ways more importantly, the student experience on our campus will be elevated as well,” Marino said.
Marino said his appreciation for cultures different than his grew when he traveled out of the United States while he attended the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York. He said he hopes this partnership with Gen.G is able to do the same thing for not only his Ball State Esports student-athletes but the Cardinal population in general.
“I know that experiencing other cultures and other people with different views from around the world positively impacted me,” Marino said. “I think that schools, and Ball State is no exception to this, recognize that being able to create a healthy and diverse campus life for students, also can help deliver those outcomes for students on our campus without having to go very far, because we have so many in-state students and being able to bring students in that can deliver new points of views, hobbies and things like that, connects our students to a more international and worldwide phenomenon, that being eSports, I think will not only impact the students that are coming over, but also the students we already have on campus.”
Suffolk, Virginia to Muncie, Indiana. Approximately 677 miles apart.
Camden Hovell is an incoming freshman from Suffolk who’s high school was the first in the state to run a League of Legends and Smash tournament for Esports, in which they competed and produced (Ball State recently introduced an Esports Production major). Hovell said they plan to major in media at Ball State and try out for the League of Legends varsity team, mentioning they chose Ball State due to its high ranking in both media and Esports.
As for Ball State Esports’ partnership with Gen.G, Hovell said they had prior knowledge of Gen.G after watching their teams compete in professional tournaments. When they heard the news of this recent partnership, Hovell said they are excited to get to know the transfer students and to learn about their culture.
Not only that, but Hovell said they are eager to compete alongside Gen.G’s student-athletes joining Ball State Esports.
“I'm pretty excited about it,” Hovell said. “Our varsity teams are going to be that much better. We're going to be competing at the same level, in theory, as Gen.G would in many video games, because we're going to be having the same people and we get to learn alongside them as well, so hopefully the people around them are just getting better as they are here with us.”
Being someone with experience competing and producing in Esports competitions, Hovell said they feel Esports should be presented at an equal level as other athletics. Hovell said they feel Ball State is already pointed in that direction and their partnership with Gen.G will only help bring Esports to the same level as all of Ball State Athletics.
“That's definitely the goal, in particular with Ball State,” Hovell said. “The Esports production kids already work directly with the sports production kids, it's basically underneath the same exact umbrella where they just go between the two programs, and that's ideally the exact world we want to be in, where it's the same exact level as traditional sports, and Ball State already has that.”
A 3,611 square foot Esports center introduced in April 2021 and over 500 students involved in Ball State Esports helps show the organization is continually growing. Whether it be academically, culturally or competitively, Ball State Esports and Gen.G’s partnership may take Cardinal Esports to the next level.